Pratique incontournable dans la culture africaine, la dot est l’expression symbolique d’un homme pour entrer en communion avec une femme. This symbolic gesture seal the union of two families and is often marked by gifts, money or both. Cependant, dans les sociétés africaines actuelles, elle se transforme de plus en plus en une anarque, du fait du montant exagéré fixé par certaines familles.
The dowry, traditionally instituted in African culture for thousands years, is the pledge of two families union, giving their blessing to the couple. Cette alliance est la preuve juridique du mariage au sein des familles. As civil marriage binds the spouses to the state and religious marriage to the church, the dowry represents traditional marriage. And this is often the first act required by the priest or mayor before any civil or religious action. Moreover, Article 142 of the Beninese Family and Personal Code stipulates that “the dowry has a symbolic meaning. With respect to its institutional aspect and the importance it has in Africa, some families have turned it into a commercial transaction. It is more and more frequent to see men devoting a good part, even all their financial resources to pay the dowry of their future spouse. Some families turned their daughter’s dowry into a business project ( in Africa, dowry ceremonies can go from five hundred thousand to one million five hundred thousand francs cfa); this makes it lose its sacred status and brings young people to be reluctant on the issue.
Youth and traditional obligations
In a country like Benin where the SMIG is still at forty thousand with a very high rate of unemployment, do the expensive dowry ceremonies aim to exclude youth without the means to gather this huge fortune? Indeed, there are many women today living with their children under their parent’s roof. because the husband has not yet paid the dowry This not only poses a real societal problem, but above all undermines the reputation of our traditional values. Moreover, when husbands succeed in providing for their wives after years of hard work, it is often the women who suffer the blows at home. Besides, considering the enormous expenses that the dowry now involves, the question arises whether it should be abolished. The risk in this case, would be going against African customs and traditions, and therefore against the meaning of the dowry. For the time being, dowry must be review not only in African parliaments, but especially within families, for everybody to feel concerned and make it one of their priorities as soon as they desire to build a family. There are laws governing the dowry, but these laws have not been respected by the legislator. It is therefore important to raise awareness in order to limit the impact of monetized dowry.
French translation of ” Dot en Afrique : Un légendaire commerce des temps modernes ”, Eliane FATCHINA by Salima ALAGBE